Today we said a bittersweet farewell to the space shuttle orbiter Discovery, as it headed off to retirement at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center atop a special 747.
On its way to Dulles Airport (where it landed just outside DC) from Kennedy Space Center (where it took off from), it made approximately 4 loops around the Washington, DC metro area. There are many spectacular pictures of it, many of them taken by people lucky enough to look up and see it. Check out the #spottheshuttle hash tag on twitter to see some of them.
The official photos from NASA HQ, many taken from the T-38 chase plane, are spectacular. The photo below is from that set.
Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
The shuttle did fly over NASA Goddard and was a beautiful if bittersweet sight. There is a Flickr group that has lots of photos taken by NASA Goddard folks. If you are one of them, consider adding your photos.
We’ll leave with you a couple of photos taken by friends from Goddard.
This YouTube vid features recordings made by the U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas during the Perseid meteor shower. How does this work? Head over to Phil Plait’s blog for an explanation.
The Goddard Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory released some exciting news about the age-old question of origin of the chemical components necessary for life. According to Dr. Michael Callahan of Goddard, “People have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960′s, but researchers were unsure whether they were really created in space or if instead they came from contamination by terrestrial life. For the first time, we have three lines of evidence that together give us confidence these DNA building blocks actually were created in space.” The findings imply that some asteroids and comets may have the chemistry necessary to make the building blocks of essential biological molecules.
The James Webb Space Telescope has had a lot of recent milestones. All the primary mirror segments have been polished – and the secondary mirror has just been completed. You can read a NASA web feature all about what Webb’s secondary mirror does and why it’s important. (It’s quite large too – nearly as big as the Spitzer Space Telescope’s primary mirror!)
As the launch countdown rapidly approached zero, STS-135 Commander Christopher Ferguson addressed Launch Director Mike Leinbach:
“Thanks to you and your team, Mike, until the very end you all made it look easy. The shuttle will always be a reflection of what a nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through. We’re not ending a journey today, we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. You and the thousands of men and women who have given their hearts, souls, and their lives for the cause of exploration have rewritten history. Let’s light this fire one last time and witness this great nation at its best. The crew of Atlantis is ready for launch.”
STS-135 Atlantis lifts off from pad 39A, Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
With these impassioned words still hanging in the air, the shuttle Atlantis soared gracefully up from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday July 8th, 2011 at 11:29 am and quickly slipped behind a dense cover of clouds – a spectacular bookend to the space shuttle program’s illustrious 30-year history. Read more »
The time has come to say goodbye to Space Shuttle. The program has faithfully served NASA, our country and the international community for 30 long years, and now it’s time for an era to come to a close. The final Shuttle launch occurred mere minutes ago, down at Kennedy Space Center.
In honor of this historic and bittersweet event, we’ve compiled a special Awesomeness Round-Up all about the Space Shuttle. And stay tuned in the coming days as I (Faith) traveled down to Florida – along with over 1 million other space enthusiasts – to view the launch!
STS-135 crew members Chris Ferguson, left, Douglas Hurley, second from left, Sandra Magnus, and Rex Walheim, right, pose for a group photograph atop of the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) as the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) rolls out of High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39a for its final flight, Tuesday evening, May 31, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The 3.4-mile trek, known as “rollout,” will take about seven hours to complete. Atlantis will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. The launch of STS-135 is targeted for July 8. Caption Credit: NASA, Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
…that the first space shuttle was launched. On April 12, 1981, at Pad 39A, just seconds past 7 a.m., the space shuttle Columbia carried astronaut John Young and Robert Crippen into Earth orbit.
I think our Administrator, Charlie Bolden (a former astronaut), said it best when he called the shuttle’s retirement “bittersweet”. He added, “A future that is bright and open to us because of the shuttle program. We could not be reaching for new heights and developing the next generation of capabilities without the technological breakthroughs of the shuttle and the many lessons learned that we will carry forward.”
The new homes for each of the orbiters were announced today. Atlantis goes to Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour goes to the California Science Center in LA, Enterprise (the prototype orbiter) goes to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in NYC, and Discovery goes to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum annex (the Udvar-Hazy Center) in Dulles, VA. (Roadtrip, anyone?)
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program, employees down at Kennedy Space Center came together for this impressive themed aerial portrait. I’m not sure what image we would pick at Goddard, since the research here is so diverse! Any ideas? Post them in the comments!
There’s a lot more awesomeness below… last week was a busy one for space stuff! Read more »
As you may or may not know, each “morning,” the astronauts aboard the shuttle are woken up with specially selected music. Sometimes they get the original band to play the tune, sometimes it’s a favorite song or a parody (during the last Hubble servicing mission, I have it on good authority that a parody of Hotel California written by someone on the project was used), or sometimes the public votes on it.
And sometimes, it’s…Captain Kirk?
Our question to you is this:
Blueshift ponders: What song or message would you want to send the last two shuttle crews for a wake-up call?
On February 24, 2011 the space shuttle had a successful launch – it also happened to be Discovery’s last flight.
It was actually coincidental that I was in Florida on the day of the launch. My friends and I had made plans ages ago for the Disney Princess half-marathon. Some of our group were running in it and some of us were cheering the runners. Five of us would be flying in the afternoon of the 25th and once I learned that was the day of the launch, we decided we had to try to see it. We didn’t have a lot of time to figure out how and where to see it because of our flights, but try we would.
Read about our adventure after the jump, wherein we cut things very close! The photo below, though (SPOILERS!!) should tell you that we made it on time. Barely.